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‘Every time I call, someone is dead’: Fear of India’s diaspora



“I talk to my mother almost every day,” said Ansh Sachdeva, 23, a student at Bolton University in the north-west of England. “But every time I call, someone is dead. Someone has Covid. ”

He says no house has been left untouched on the streets of New Delhi where his parents live. He traveled home in November to help care for his parents and grandfather, who had contracted the virus. But now he worries that they may get sick again and the new travel restrictions will make it impossible for him to get there.

By January, his mother had been the one worried about his return to the UK when a disturbing second wave of the virus took hold here. “For them,”

; he said of the general perception in India earlier this year, “Covid was over.”

But it was not over. Many Indians abroad followed with unrest as the government allowed cricket matches in crowded stadiums, mass election rallies and a major religious festival called Kumbh Mela, where millions gathered in one city. Meanwhile, case levels began to rise exponentially.

In Britain, home to a vibrant and diverse community of people with roots in India, the pain is palpable. In a neighborhood store in Harrow, a community in north-west London with a large Indian population, two employees said they had lost a brother in the past week.

The cultural ties between the two countries run deep, with Britain’s large Indian diaspora estimated to number over 1.5 million people – the single largest ethnic minority population in the country. For many, the loss, anxiety or grief they experience when family members become ill in recent weeks is a mix of what was already a difficult year and, like Britain, coming out of the lockdown and hoping to crush the virus.

Harmeet Gill, 31, was born and raised in London, but his parents are from India’s northern Punjab state, and they remain extremely close to the extended family there.


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